Our Town is a program designed to offer up to ten years of financial support to two South Australian towns but at its heart, we are hoping to demonstrate how with the right conditions and resources, communities can deliver their own solutions to mental health challenges.

Implementing such an approach, one that many people, service providers and local governments have never had the opportunity to consider, requires a different mindset. There were a number of practices from traditional funding models that we had to question to ensure that the program would have a chance of achieving the impact we are envisaging:

  • How can we empower people to mobilise together on an issue if we only fund one organisation in a town?
  • Will community members feel like they have the power to try, test and fail if we have a process that means they have to constantly apply for funding?
  • Will towns want to put in the considerable work of applying and participating in the capability building if they only have a few years of support at the end?

After considering these questions, we decided that Our Town could fund a number of organisations in a town that would work collaboratively on an issue. We also created a decade-long funding scenario, which would allow towns to trial solutions and fail, and also maintain their momentum by not having to reapply for funding frequently.

A question we get asked often is where did the idea for Our Town come from? There wasn’t a single idea, or program we have seen elsewhere, that resulted in the design of Our Town. Instead, Our Town is the result of commissioned research, long conversations with service providers and community members, and most importantly, self-reflection on our own internal practices that may hinder long-term impact.

We are just at the beginning of working with rural and regional South Australia to see if there is a different model that we can use to improve mental health outcomes, but we have a commitment to seeing this through. We believe that this is an occasion where we do have to be different. If we work to ensure the towns have the resources and skills, spread amongst residents, organisations and other service providers, with a timeline that allows new practices and behaviours to be embedded into the future, we believe we can strengthen rural and regional South Australia.

Read more about Our Town and how to apply. Applications close on Monday 5 August at 5pm ACST.